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Blackhawks Buzz: Quenneville goes for win No. 800

by Emerald Gao / Chicago Blackhawks


Sunday's matinee tilt at the United Center features two teams that are coming off wild one-goal wins. The Blackhawks traded goals with Winnipeg in a wild 5-4 overtime win on Friday, capped by Brent Seabrook's career-best 14th goal of the season. Four Chicago players enjoyed multi-point outings, including rookie Erik Gustafsson (2A) for the first time in his career, and Patrick Kane, who became the first Blackhawk to reach the 40-goal plateau since Tony Amonte in 1999-2000 (43) and the third NHLer to hit the mark this season after Alex Ovechkin and Jamie Benn. Boston, meanwhile, built up a 5-2 lead on St. Louis after 40 minutes and withstood a late charge to win 6-5 on Friday. The Bruins beat Chicago 4-2 in their first meeting of the season on March 3 and rank third in the league with 25 road wins this season, so the Blackhawks will have their work cut out for them on Sunday.


After a barren spell where he accrued just two assists in nine games, Artemi Panarin led the charge on Friday with four points (2G, 2A), including the game-tying goal late in the third period and the assist on Seabrook's game-winner. It was Panarin's eighth game of three points of more, six of which have come on the road; he shares third in the league in that respect alongside countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov, trailing only his linemate, Kane, and Johnny Gaudreau. Per Elias, he's also just the third rookie in the last 23 seasons to compile that many multi-point games, along the likes of Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. He continues to lead NHL first-years in many offensive categories, while ranking 13th overall with 68 points.


The Bruins' big contributor in Friday's win over the Blues was center David Krejci, who tallied twice and added a pair of helpers, including one on Patrice Bergeron's game-winner; he won a team-best 54 percent of his draws and logged 20:32 of ice time, second among forwards. The 29-year-old now has six points in his last three games and ranks second with 60 points in 68 games this season, including a club-high 43 assists. Krejci has skated much of the season on Boston's second line alongside Matt Beleskey (who posted two helpers on Friday), and he's also carved out a spot on the team's first power-play unit, one of the league's most productive all season; that group tallied twice on four opportunities Friday, reiterating their efficiency with the man advantage. Overall, the Bruins have converted 47 times on a mere 222 opportunities (third-fewest in the league) this season, so the Blackhawks will need to avoid taking too many trips to the penalty box on Sunday.


Boston has benefitted from another exemplary season from Bergeron, who reached the 30-goal mark for the third time in his career with the game-winner on Friday. Not only does the 30-year-old lead the team with 64 points, including 25 on the power play, he's also playing some of the toughest minutes among league forwards, all while posting a 8.2 percent relative possession share, second-highest in the league—in essence, he drives Boston's success on both ends of the ice and in all situations, as expected of a player who has won the Frank Selke Trophy in three of the last four seasons. Of course, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews won the award in 2013, and Head Coach Joel Quenneville could opt to get his top pivot out against Bergeron and Boston's high-powered top line, which would set up a highly entertaining battle between two top trios.


Sunday's matchup will also be a tactical battle between the two bench bosses who faced off in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, two of the most decorated active head coaches. Boston's March 3 victory over the Blackhawks marked Claude Julien's 387th win with the Bruins, tying him for the franchise record, and Friday's win in St. Louis marked his 700th game coached with the club, third-most in team history. Chicago's win on Friday moved Quenneville one game closer to a major milestone as well: He now sits at 799 career victories (361 of which have come with the Blackhawks), and a positive result in Sunday's tilt would further cement his status as the second winningest head coach in league history after he passed Al Arbour (782) earlier this season.


Both the Blackhawks and Bruins survived rollercoaster rides on Friday to emerge victorious in high-scoring affairs. In Chicago's case, their come-from-behind victory required some sacrifices, as Andrew Shaw, Jonathan Toews and Trevor van Riemsdyk all had to leave the game at some point to tend to injuries; Shaw was deemed day-to-day with an upper body injury after taking an awkward hit by the end boards. The team also learned of Duncan Keith's fate: a six-game suspension for high-sticking, a punishment that includes the first game of the playoffs, where it's looking increasingly likely that a physical St. Louis team will be the opponent. The Bruins always pose a heavy challenge on the forecheck, so the Blackhawks will need to figure out a way to keep their opponents' high-powered offense at bay on Sunday while riding the momentum of a successful road trip.

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